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posted: 3/11/2013 4:40 AM

Your health: Brain food

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  • Walnuts and blueberries are both good for your brain.

    Walnuts and blueberries are both good for your brain.


Fueling the brain?

We love our hearts and eat foods to be heart healthy. But what about our brains?

Neal Barnard, an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, says how we eat can improve not just the function of our tickers, but also the longevity of our noggins, says The Washington Post.

In his new book, "Power Foods for the Brain" ($27), and his PBS special, "Protect Your Memory," he outlines his nutrition plan to stave off Alzheimer's and dementia:

Walnuts: vitamin E can be a brain booster, Barnard says, noting a Dutch study that showed that people with the most vitamin E in their diets cut their risk of Alzheimer's by 25 percent. The best sources are nuts and seeds.

Blueberries: Fruit and veggies don't have cholesterol, Barnard says. And that's important for the brain because clogged-up arteries translate into reduced mental function. But he's particularly fond of this antioxidant-rich fruit that's been shown to help people with memory problems.

Broccoli: Folate sounds like foliage, which is what it is, Barnard says. And in combination with vitamins B6 and B12, it can eliminate homocysteine -- a destructive molecule that messes with the heart and brain.

Sweet potatoes: Wondering how to get your B6? Throw some of these root veggies into your basket. Barnard says they're a staple in the diet in Okinawa, a place where people have been found to have exceptional brain function.

Wine: Too much vino can mess with memory, obviously. But a glass or two a night has been shown to cut Alzheimer's risk significantly. In theory, a red variety is the better choice, Barnard says, because the resveratrol it contains may be good for your heart. But when it comes to the brain, a glass of any alcohol appears to offer similar protection.

Hearing loss memoir

Author Katherine Bouton was 30 years old when she began to lose her hearing. It began with a partial decline in her left ear.

In the subsequent 22 years, she lost nearly all hearing in both ears for no apparent reason, a physical mystery with deep psychological repercussions.

In her new book "Shouting Won't Help," Bouton describes her experience -- from denial to a frantic search for the cause to learning to live "functionally deaf," as she describes herself.

But as common as impaired hearing may be, it is often ignored. In some cases, the loss is so gradual that it is easy not to notice; in others, Bouton explains, people are too ashamed or embarrassed to wear a hearing aid. The book delves into the mechanics of hearing and the psychological impact of its failure.

"(For) most people, hearing loss remains intensely personal," Bouton writes. "It is a hidden disability, one often borne in secret."

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